DONG KINGMAN (1911 - 2000)
Dong Kingman, the world-renowned artist and teacher, died in his sleep
on May 12, 2000 at age 89 in his home in Manhattan.
Long acknowledged as an American watercolor master, he has received
an extraordinary number of awards and honors throughout his 70-year
career in the arts. Included are two Guggenheim fellowships in 1942
and 1943; the San Francisco Art Association First Purchase Prize, 1936;
Audubon Artist Gold Medal of Honor, 1946; Philadelphia Watercolor Club
Joseph Pennel Memorial Medal, 1950; Metropolitan Museum of Art Award,
and the National Academy Design 150th Anniversary Gold Medal Award,
1975. In 1987, the American Watercolor Society awarded Dong Kingman
its highest honor, the Dolphin Medal, for having made outstanding
contributions to art - especially to that of watercolor.
His work is represented in the permanent collections of 50 museums and
universities, including Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston; Brooklyn Museum; Butler Institute of American Art; Columbus
Museum of Arts and Crafts; Des Moines Art Center; M.H. deYoung Memorial
Museum of Art; Fred Jones Jr., Museum of Art, The University of Oklahoma;
Metropolitan Museum of Art; Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute;
Museum of Modern Art; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Sheldon Memorial
Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden; Springfield Art Museum; Toledo Museum
of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art.
Born in Oakland, California in 1911 of Chinese descent, Kingman moved
to Hong Kong at age five. He studied art and calligraphy in his formative
years at the Lingnan School. The painting master Szeto Wai had recently
studied art in Paris and took a keen interest in young Dongs precocious
talents. He taught him both Chinese classical and French Impressionist
styles of painting.
Kingman returned home to Oakland when he was 18 at the height of the
Depression. He worked as a newsboy and dishwasher to make ends meet.
When he was employed as a houseboy for the Drew family in San Francisco,
he painted every spare moment. In a year, he created enough pictures
to have a one-man show at the Art Center. It attracted the attention
of San Francisco art critics who raved about Kingmans unique style.
Wrote Junius Cravens of the San Francisco News: That young Chinese
artist is showing 20 of the freshest and most satisfying watercolors
that have been seen hereabouts in many a day
Kingman already has
developed that universal quality which may place a sincere artist work
above the limitations of either racial characteristics or schools. Kingmans
art belongs to the world at large today. Dong Kingman became an
From 1936 to 1941, he was a project artist for WPA and became a pioneer
for a new school of painting, the California Style. His
two Guggenheim fellowships enabled him to travel the country painting
American scenes. His first one-man show in New York at Midtown Galleries
in 1942 was well received in the media, including Time, Newsweek, the
New Yorker and American Artist. M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San
Francisco held a major exhibit of his watercolors in 1945. In 1951,
Midtown presented a 10-year retrospective of his work. Time Magazine
wrote, At age 40, Kingman is one of the worlds best watercolorists.
Other retrospectives, including Corcoran in Washington, D.C. and Witte
Memorial Museum in San Antonio, were held for the artist. In the late
50s, Kingman moved from Midtown to Wildenstein where he had successful
exhibits for over a decade in New York, London and Paris. Hammer Galleries
exhibited his paintings in the 70s, and then the artist expanded
his venues to the West Coast and Far East.
During World War II, he served with the OSS in Washington, DC where
he was a cartographer. After his honorable discharge, Kingman moved
to Brooklyn Heights from San Francisco when he became a guest lecturer
and then art instructor at Columbia University (1946-1958). Hunter College
also appointed him instructor in watercolors and Chinese Art (1948-1953).
His teaching career continued with the Famous Artists School, Westport,
CT in 1953, joining such distinguished artists on the faculty as Will
Barnet, Stuart Davis, Norman Rockwell and Ben Shahn. He also became
a teaching member for 40 years for the Hewitt Painting Workshops, which
conducts worldwide painting tours. He taught at the Academy of Art College
in San Francisco, was a member of its board, and received an honorary
doctorate from the Academy.
In 1954, the U.S. Department of State invited Kingman to go on a cultural
exchange program tour around the world to give exhibitions and lectures
and to meet local artists. When he came home, he presented the State
Department with a 40-foot long report on a scroll, which later appeared
in LIFE Magazine.
One of Kingmans most treasured experiences was his invitation
by the Ministry of Culture of the Peoples Republic of China to
exhibit in that country in 1981. He was the first American artist to
be accorded a one-man show since diplomatic relations resumed. More
than 100,000 visitors attended his exhibitions in Beijing, Hangzhou
and Guangzhou and the retrospective received critical acclaim from the
Chinese press. Noted the China Daily Mail, Just as the master
painters of the Song Dynasty roamed about mountain and stream to capture
the rhythm of nature, Dong Kingman traveled the world capturing the
dynamism of modern life
familiar scenes have been transformed into
a vibrant new vision of life through color schemes with rhythms that
play over the entire surface of the picture. The wind swept skies which
enliven his watercolors remind us of the pleinairism of the French Impressionists.
Kingman, who has been fascinated with movies since seeing his first
film The Thief of Baghdad, distinguished himself in this
field as well. In 1954, the academy award -winning cinematographer James
Wong Howe directed and photographed the exceptional 15-minute documentary,
Dong Kingman. Kingman also produced, directed and animated
Hong Kong Dong which received the Outstanding Achievement
Award for Best Short Film at the San Francisco International Film Festival
Inevitably, Hollywood beckoned the celebrated watercolorist. His watercolors
were used to set the visual moods in the films Flower Drum Song
(Universal, 1961) and 55 Days At Peking (Allied Artists,
1963), both giving the artist film credit. He served as technical advisor
for The World of Suzie Wong (Paramount, 1964) and contributed
his artwork to motion pictures including Circus World (Paramount,
1964); King Rat (Columbia, 1965); The Sand Pebbles
(20th Century Fox, 1966); The Desperados (Columbia, 1969)
and Lost Horizons (Columbia, 1973).
In the summer of 2000, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
highlighted Kingmans involvement in films with a special two-month
exhibition Dong Kingman: An American Master in Hollywood
that commemorated his film-related work in the permanent collection
of the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy Center for Motion Picture
Study in Beverly Hills, CA.
His books include: The Watercolors of Dong Kingman, text
by Alan D. Gruskin, introduction by William Soroyan (Crowell, 1958);
San Francisco: City On Golden Hills, Herb Caen/Dong Kingman
(Doubleday, 1967); Dong Kingmans Watercolors, with
his wife Helena Kuo Kingman (Watson-Guptil, 1980); Paint the Yellow
Tiger, Dong Kingman (Sterling, 1991); and Portraits of Cities,
Dong Kingman (22nd Century Film Corp., 1997) and Dong Kingman:
An American Master (M James Fine Art 2000).
He has executed many commissions from magazine covers for Time, Life,
Fortune, New York Times, and Saturday Review, to murals for the Bank
of California in San Francisco, the Washington Mutual Bank in New York,
the Ambassador Hotel in Hong Kong, and the Boca Raton Hotel in Florida.
The mural East Meets West that he painted for the Lingnan
Restaurant in Manhattan was rescued, restored and subsequently donated
to the Brooklyn Public Library by Roslyn and Eugene Gamiel in 1997.
The mural is now installed in the Librarys Multilingual Center.
Among his posters, he created the OpSail 1976 and 1986 editions,
the 100th Anniversary of the Olympics Games poster for the
Games held in Atlanta as well as limited edition posters for Pan Am
and the Hong Kong Tourist Association.
Among his charitable activities, he was the honored guest of Hong Kong
Rotary International sponsored exhibit in June 1997 where the sale of
his works at the handover festivities raised $70,000 for charities in
Hong Kong. He contributed numerous watercolors to charitable organizations,
including the World Federation of United Nations Association Limited
Edition (WFUNA) art program and UNICEF.
In recent years, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan exhibited 40
Years of Watercolors by Dong Kingman from November 1994 through
January 1995. In 1999, the Taichung Provincial Museum in Taiwan presented
a retrospective of Dong Kingmans watercolor paintings.
A national touring retrospective, Dong Kingman: An American Master
with venues at the Governors Gallery, Legislative Building, Olympia,
WA; Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA; Louisiana Arts &
Science Center, Baton Rouge, LA; and Brooklyn Public Library, N.Y. began
in the Fall of 2000 and concluded in March 2002.
Washingtons Governor Gary Locke commented,
I was looking
at more than just paintings. The artist deftly brings together elements
of his Chinese heritage and life in America. The paintings tell a story
of a mans quest to unite the best of both his worlds. The
retrospective, organized by the Institute of Chinese Culture and Arts
and the curator Monte James, was funded in part by the Starr Foundation.
In 2001, activities honoring the artist include the presentation of
the first annual American Watercolor Society Dong Kingman award; establishment
of a Dong Kingman fellowship in the Visual Arts Division at the Columbia
University School of the Arts; and inclusion in the Leading
the Way exhibit of pioneering Asia American artists held at Gordon
College, Mass. From November 2001 to March 2002, the Chinese Historical
Society of America & Museum and San Francisco State University's
College of Creative Art co-sponsored a major exhibition, Dong
Kingman in San Francisco, at the Society's new facilities in San
At the invitation of the Ministry of Culture, Peoples Republic
of China, a new exhibition, Dong Kingman: Watercolor Master,
opened at Beijing National Museum towards the end of 2002, and then
moved on to the Exhibition Galleries of the Hong Kong Central Library
and concluded its China tour at the Shanghai Art Museum in early 2003.
Co-hosting the exhibit were the China International Exhibition Agency
and Century Masters, Inc. (CMI), a non-profit organization dedicated
to cultural exchange and the arts. Major funding was provided by The
For more on the artist, log onto www.dongkingman.org
or search for his name on www.google.com.
Contact: Dong Kingman, Jr. Tel. and fax: (212) 787-1335
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